VVoices is a free-to-read Vague Visages critics survey.
In the sixth Vague Visages’ VVoices survey, contributors list their most anticipated movies for the summer of 2021.
Alistair Ryder (@YesItsAlistair)
The movie world is returning to normal, with blockbuster releases now back on a weekly basis for the remainder of the summer season. And with them comes the return of major festivals, with none more highly anticipated than the 2021 edition of Cannes, boasting what appears to be the most tantalising competition slate since 2016. For cinephiles and critics the world over, the promise of something substantial to sink our teeth into after a middling year of VOD offerings is enough to make us yearn to be smuggled back onto the Croisette. Of course, government restrictions in France means that the festival is less accessible than ever, giving international broadsheet critics the experience of being a yellow press badge holder — but luckily, one of the festival’s most high profile offerings arrives in the U.S. and U.K. just weeks after its opening night premiere.
Nine years after the sensational Holy Motors, Leos Carax returns with the years-in-the-making musical Annette. Written by Ron and Russell Mael of pop duo Sparks, in the midst of a resurgence following Edgar Wright’s fawning documentary, Annette looks set to be the perfect marriage of sensibilities between the writers and director. The deadpan wit that Sparks has filled songs for nearly 50 years is set to be a major factor in this offbeat romance between a standup comedian (Adam Driver) and an opera singer (Marion Cotillard). Their sardonic sensibilities are likely to make a fitting contrast to what seems to be Carax returning to the heightened romanticism of his earliest films, and on the grandest canvas he’s ever been afforded. As Hollywood prepares to unload two summers’ worth of sequels in one, Annette seems like the daring, original work that truly reminds us why we go to the movies.
Luís Correia (@correialuis_)
Petite maman sees Céline Sciamma once more revisit the motif that has concerned all of her previous work: the fluidity of affection and sexuality beyond the domain of the male gaze. The French director’s fifth feature film centers on eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz), whose mother, Marion (Nina Meurisse), leaves after becoming overwhelmed with grief from the passing of her own elderly mother. Retreating into the boundless world of play that characterizes childhood, Nelly reencounters her mother, not as an adult, but as a ghost of her childhood self (played by the actor’s twin sister, Gabrielle Sanz) playing in the woods where she grew up. Following Nelly’s bonding with the eight-year-old apparition of her mother, Petite maman becomes an inquiry into the boundaries of memory and into the bizarreness of human beings’ adjustment to loss and grief. After premiering at Berlinale earlier this year, the film marks Sciamma’s return to the big screen after rising to international prominence in 2019 with the superb Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Shot and produced during the ongoing pandemic, Petite maman confirms Sciamma’s spellbinding gift as a screenwriter and her unique ability to render palpable the complexity of the female psyche.
Kelly Mintzer (@KellyMintzer)
We haven’t even reached the solstice yet, but the summer of 2021 is already shaping up to be the summer of horror. Certainly the phrase “summer of horror’ usually evokes images of blood-splattered summer camps, terrorized by masked killers who probably experienced childhood trauma, but when applied to film, it’s emphatically a good thing. While A Quiet Place Part II, Spiral: From the Book of Saw and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It were already exciting releases for horror fans, no horror or summer film has me more jazzed than Nia DaCosta’s Candyman sequel/reinvention. The film has a perfectly-cut trailer that introduces the fundamental premise — a return to Cabrini Green — and teases a visually exciting exploration of the Candyman mythos, without giving away the foundational mysteries. The trailer raised the collective blood pressure of the horror community when it was released, but then the movie’s premiere date was delayed for over a year. Those 365-plus days only built the anticipation to fevered heights. Add to that the promise of a screenplay co-penned by Jordan Peele — one of the most bullet-proof voices in horror right now — and the triumphant return of Tony Todd as Daniel Robitaille, and Candyman becomes the can’t miss nightmare of 2021.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough)
I’m looking forward to Old, an adaptation of the 2013 novel Sandcastle. Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has seemingly returned to form in recent years, and shows a knack for identifying female stars-in-the-making. Olivia DeJonge headlines the 2015 thriller The Visit and will soon appear as Priscilla Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. Anya Taylor-Joy stars in the 2016 film Split, and has since established herself as one of today’s premiere actresses. In addition, Nell Tiger Free — one of the leads in Shyamalan’s Apple TV+ series Servant — has demonstrated that she’s a viable headliner, too. Now, with Old, New Zealand actress Thomasin McKenzie has a big opportunity to cross over into the mainstream after previously landing lead roles in Leave No Trace and JoJo Rabbit. And she has a strong supporting cast around her in Old, with Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps starring as the main adult characters. In the trailer, Alex Wolff has a crying scene that will immediately remind many viewers of a specific in moment in Midsommar (and maybe become a distraction in theaters) but hopefully Shyamalan will do more than just recycle concepts from thrillers of the recent past.
Andy Winter (@andywinter1)
Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor is at the top of my must-see list this summer. Inspired by the moral panic surrounding so-called video nasties in Britain in the 1980s, the film has already opened in the U.S., but won’t appear in U.K. cinemas until well into August. Beyond the blood and bare flesh, the best nasties (Island Of Death, Possession, Tenebrae) contain moments both transgressive and haunting, and Censor’s trailer suggests that Bailey-Bond’s debut feature is cut from the same cloth. Also in my thoughts are a couple of music documentaries. Edgar Wright’s The Sparks Brothers is an odyssey through the 50-year music career of Ron and Russell Mael. Miming classic singles such as “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” and “Amateur Hour,” Sparks’ appearances on music show Top of the Pops were the stuff of legend in the U.K., with Ron’s “Hitler, only creepier” demeanor outraging parents, including mine. Then there is I Get Knocked Down by Chumbawamba frontman-turned-filmmaker Dunstan Bruce, which promises to give us the “untold story” of the British anarcho-punks, who hit big worldwide with “Tubthumping” before breaking up in 2012. Finally, with the pandemic-hit U.K. release schedule still playing catch-up, I shall enjoy seeing Pietro Marcello’s acclaimed literary adaptation Martin Eden, albeit nearly two years after its release in Italy.
Ben Flanagan (@manlikeflan)
With cinema beautifully back in London, each week has new reasons to be excited. In the next few days, I’ll be seeing Paul W.S. Anderson’s Monster Hunter, In the Heights (I don’t care if it’s corny, I just want to feel something), prints of Robert Altman’s HealtH and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century. At last, cinemas are back, and it feels like there’s a real variety of films on offer.
Navigating London’s cinema scene can feel like a chore. Tickets are, famously, outrageously priced, and pop up events might be over an hour away from your cramped flat. These travails are made easier by the use of a listing website called Radiant Circus — which is a little like New York’s fabled Screen Slate — that highlights alternative and independent film events, and hosts new writing. It’s indispensable reading if you’re mapping out your cinema trips in the city. I’m looking forward to those summer days when I can roll out of bed, spend a few hours in the park and then check the listings in the knowledge that there’ll be something for whatever mood I’m seeking.
Peter Bell (@PeterGBell25)
In the last year, it seemed like we were all living the Beatles tune “The Long and Winding Road.” The last thing we need is an epilogue of a long, cold and lonely winter. January ’21 saw the passing of Hammer horror actress and all-around monster diva Barbara Shelley. In April, Hollywood and the denizens of Sunset Blvd. faced the closure of the Cinerama Dome. Yes, there’s been a lot of adapting and necessary changes, but hope springs eternal, and once more, the bright flash of the silver screen beckons invitingly. My picks of films to watch for this summer include The Sparks Brothers (2021). Not only is this director Edgar Wright’s first crack at being a documentarian, but it will be a deep-dive exploration into one of the most overlooked bands. The Protégé (2021) looks to be not only a great action film but also a welcomed return for fan-favorite director Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro, GoldenEye). Finally, last but not least, I look forward to Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back, as I’m eager to see how the filmmaker will apply his editing and restoration magic to the Fab Four. As John Lennon prophetically says in “Mind Games,” “So keep playing those mind games together / Faith in the future out of the now.” Regardless of size, small or large, when applied correctly, the magic of theater can strike an uplifting cord, or at the very least supply us with a healthy dose of escapism and popcorn munching.
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